Given our Puritanical history, nudity and sex are dealt with very differently in the U.S. than they are in some other countries. Many European nations show topless women on broadcast TV without a second thought, and whole families gather in German parks with nude sunbathers without concern. However, other cultures and religions from around the world are even more “modest,” with Islam perhaps being the most strict. For one stepmom who married her husband eight years ago, seven years after he stopped practicing as a Muslim, these differing expectations around what is appropriate are causing major problems now that her stepson has hit puberty.
“I (35F) met my husband (43M) eight years ago,” wrote scarifairy on Reddit. “We fell in love hard and got married a year later. My stepson was 6 years old at the time. I pretty much raised him since his mother has always been out of the picture, and even though he doesn’t call me ‘mom’ we have a great relationship.”
This sounds like a really lovely stepmom-and-stepkid relationship! Things are getting trickier, though…
“Ever since my stepson (14M) hit puberty, my husband started commenting on my clothes and asking me to not wear a two-piece bikini around my stepson,” she continues. “He justified it by explaining that in his culture — he’s ‘from a Muslim Arab country’ — you should dress modestly around non-family members. I was very offended, since I consider him my son and I raised him since he was 6 years old.”
The stepmom goes on to explain that while she was online shopping for bikinis, her husband asked her not to purchase any two-piece swimsuits because “it’s inappropriate.” She went off on him and told him that he’s the one being “inappropriate and weird,” and that his son is also her son.
“We argued for an hour and [he] ended up leaving the house. He sent me a text later telling me that he’s very upset with me for not respecting his culture and religion,” she continues. “Am I the asshole for refusing to be more modest?”
This is a super interesting post because it seems like the stepmom has previously worn bikinis without her husband thinking it was inappropriate, whether for his son to see or anyone else. But now his feelings have changed. Is it really the son reaching puberty that led to this new opinion?
As yourlittlevoice commented, “Blaming it on his religion is a stretch. He suddenly has a problem with it? Why didn’t he care eight years ago?” Exactly!
First, is it OK for kids to see their parents naked? Licensed psychotherapist and marriage and family counselor Shirin Peykar told SheKnows that “parental nudity doesn’t necessarily cause psychological issues in children.” Of course, it’s fine until a parent or child is no longer comfortable with it, and when that changes depends on the individuals involved.
“From a psychological perspective, there isn’t a recommended age to avoid being naked in front of your children. However, children may start to ask for privacy around age 4 or 5, which may indicate their discomfort with seeing parents naked as well,” Peykar says.” Most children will feel less comfortable about nudity when they are moving into the tween years.”
Yep, that all tracks. And it makes sense that similar rules would apply to a stepmom who had been a mother to a child since he or she was little. But this stepmom and her husband are not arguing about whether she can be naked in front of her stepson, but about whether or not she should wear a bikini, which seems like another matter entirely. While there might be a case to be made that she should not be in her underwear in front of her stepson, her swimwear should be her choice. Bikinis are totally acceptable for moms of kids of all ages, for women of all shapes and sizes, for anyone who wants to wear one!
Sadly, we think we have to agree with NoxWild’s comments on Reddit, concluding that the husband’s issues with bikinis really stem from something other than what is appropriate for their son or what fits with Muslim norms.
“I want to point out that your husband’s use of the word ‘modest’ to describe how he wants you to dress is a coded way of body shaming you,” NoxWild wrote. “You are right to not permit it or to accommodate it. This actually isn’t about your son. It’s about your husband’s ridiculous belief that you are responsible for how boys and men respond to your appearance. His claim that his cultural/beliefs need to be respected by you simply because he wants you to do it is total bullshit. Teach your son to respect women as human beings. It’s creepy that your husband believes you are an object of temptation to your son.”
Whether you’re a stepmom, mom, or anyone who wants to rock a two-piece: If you’ve got a bod and a bikini, you’ve got a bikini bod!
These gorgeous photos show moms who love their postpartum bodies.